LONDON: The man who made headlines less than two years ago for being the United Kingdom’s richest and first non-White prime minister will now go down in history as a symbol of failure.

This week, a new poll forecast that the Conservatives will face a wipeout in London at the general election, and that Rishi Sunak will lose his own seat — a prediction that, if proven true, would be the first time that a sitting prime minister lost his own seat at the polls.

The Savanta and Electoral Calculus poll for The Telegraph predicted that the Conservative party could be left with just 53 MPs on July 4 as the country goes to polls and that the party leader will not be one of them.

The poll surveyed approximately 18,000 people from June 7 to 18, and found that though it will be a close contest, Sunak will lose the Richmond seat to Labour.

The poll also projected a win for Labour under Keir Starmer of over 500 seats at the election, with a majority of just under 400. The same poll suggests that Nigel Farage’s Reform UK party would win zero seats.

Rishi Sunak may be the first serving premier to lose his own seat

Soon after Sunak assumed office, journalist John Elliott wrote a column, quoting an unnamed source as saying about Rishi: “Let’s see what an intelligent, young, multi-cultural, economics-fluent leader can do for us.”

Some had pointed out that, to succeed, Sunak needed to learn how to get the government to deliver on policies, while also doing a better job at projecting himself and his family.

At the time of his appointment Sunak was technically seen as strong on the economy and financial markets because of his professional background and his experience as chancellor under Boris Johnson.

Others feared he had no experience on foreign policy or national security, or even domestic policy such as the National Health Service or police and transport.

Two years later, there is a growing sense that Sunak’s legacy will be bleak. Former Conservative leader and cabinet minister Iain Duncan Smith in March said the “public is angry, annoyed and fed up” with the party, and warned Sunak he had a few months to make people better off.

Today, the one thing that even a divided Britain can agree upon is that Rishi Sunak is a disappointment. In the words of British TV presenter Laura Kuenssberg, who quoted a Tory supporter, “He’s like a children’s TV presenter — the more people see, the more they don’t like.”

Months after Sunak assumed office, people became disillusioned with him. Some said it was his personality: Sunak’s meticulous, detail-oriented approach, which had made him popular as Chancellor, didn’t translate well to the role of prime minister.

His lack of a strong, ideological stance and his business-like approach made him appear more like a “children’s TV presenter” and less like a decisive leader.

Others say it was the failed pledges: Sunak’s five key pledges — to halve inflation, grow the economy, reduce the national debt, cut waiting lists, and stop the small boats — were seen as uninspiring and difficult to achieve. While he made some progress, the inability to fulfil all pledges undermined his credibility.

There was also the issue of leadership perception: many insiders felt that Sunak didn’t exhibit the necessary political instincts and strong beliefs required for top-level success. His approach was seen as transactional rather than visionary, which failed to inspire both his party and the public.

There was also the haunting problem of the Conservative party dynamics. Sunak inherited a deeply fractured Conservative Party with various factions and long-standing grudges.

His efforts to unify the party were hampered by lingering resentment, particularly from supporters of Boris Johnson and Liz Truss, who viewed Sunak as complicit in their downfalls.

Moreover, despite his efforts, Sunak’s affluent background and polished demeanour felt out of touch with a public facing economic hardships. This disconnect, coupled with his earlier popularity not translating to the broader party, created a perception of him being out of step with the electorate’s needs.

His initiatives, such as banning smoking and reforming A-Levels, too, were seen as lacking a compelling vision for the country leaving the public and his party questioning his direction and leadership.

Writing for The Telegraph this week, James Johson said, “He [Sunak] has failed to understand and address the pressure the Tories faced on the electoral Right. For the many Conservatives who trusted he would have the dynamism to rehabilitate the Tories, he has been a miserable disappointment. It is a personal failure he must and will own”.

Published in Dawn, June 21st, 2024

Opinion

Editorial

Olympics contingent
21 Jul, 2024

Olympics contingent

FROM 10 in Tokyo the last time, it is now down to seven in Paris, and split across just three disciplines. When...
Grave concerns
21 Jul, 2024

Grave concerns

PUNJAB Chief Minister Maryam Nawaz’s open assault on the Supreme Court for ruling in favour of the PTI in the...
Civil unrest
Updated 21 Jul, 2024

Civil unrest

The government must start putting out fires instead of fanning more flames.
Royal tantrum
Updated 20 Jul, 2024

Royal tantrum

The PML-N's confrontational stance and overt refusal to respect courts orders on arguably flimsy pretexts is a dangerous sign.
Bangladesh chaos
Updated 20 Jul, 2024

Bangladesh chaos

The unfortunate events playing out in Bangladesh should serve as a warning sign for other South Asian states.
Fitch’s estimate
20 Jul, 2024

Fitch’s estimate

FITCH seems to be more optimistic about Pakistan accelerating its economic growth rate to 3.2pc during this fiscal...